Office of the Press Secretary
(Jackson Hole, Wyoming)
11:25 A.M. MDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. This is not the hardest speech I ever had to give. (Laughter.) What a happy day. Let me thank you, Sue Glidden, for all the work you've done. Just before she came up here one of the folks sitting back here with us said, well, "Now, what are you going to do?" And she said, "Now I have my life back." I'm sure she'll find something to do with it. Highly productive.
Thank you very much, Mike Clark, for all the great work you have done. Thank you, Mike Finley and Mark Jenson and all the people at Yellowstone who do such a magnificent job preserving our nation's great treasure. I'd like to thank John Schmidt and Jim Pipkin. Ian Bayer, thank you very much for what you said and for what you've done.
I can't say enough to thank the other people in the administration -- Katie McGinty who has been wonderful about this. And you mentioned the Vice President -- I thank you very much. We have lunch once a week and at least every other lunch I asked him or he reported to me on whether this was ever going to get done or not. So in the middle of Bosnia and the budget and everything, we were -- for one year -- I know more about this some days than I wish I had known. (Laughter.)
Thank you, Jack Ward Thomas. I'd like to thank some other people who are here, and a couple who aren't. Thank you, Senator Birch Bayh, for your role in this. I want to thank my good friends, Congressman Pat Williams and Congressman Bill Richardson for working on this. Bill Richardson has been making peace all around the world the last two years, but he found time to do this as well.
I want to thank Senator and Mrs. Rockefeller who came up with me. Jay and Sharon Rockefeller are your neighbors; as you know, they live near the Grand Tetons and are very concerned about it. And I want to thank former Wyoming Governor Mike Sullivan, and his wife, Jane Sullivan, who came up with me and they've been longtime friends of Hillary's and mine.
And I want to thank all of you who were in that meeting with Hillary and with me a year ago. We learned a lot. It was a great occasion for us and we've relived it several times. I also want to say a special word of recognition for the two families that are behind me. We just hauled them up here. (Laughter.) They're laughing -- are they agreeing with me? (Laughter.) They are the Franklin family, from Sioux Falls; and the Pamprin family from Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Applause.) I asked them to come here -- ask them to stand up here. (Applause.)
I asked them to come to make this point: This fight was not simply waged by those of you who live here for your families and your community and your future. You waged this fight for all the people of the United States and, indeed, the people of the world who love and believe in the preservation of our natural resources who come and participate. And I thought it was important that somebody be reminded somehow by their presence here that there are millions and millions and millions of people who will directly benefit from the decision we announce today. And you're seeing some of them -- (applause.)
Let me say, for all kinds of reasons I'm also glad to see that John Denver is here today, and thank you very much for coming. (Applause.) And if you want to sing, I won't talk. (Laughter.) We're glad to have you here.
Hillary and Chelsea and I came back here this year, drawn by the magnet of this magnificent place, reconnecting something that I think is in all of us -- the yearning to have a bond with the nature that God has given us. Yellowstone, as all of you know -- but as I think we should remind the country today -- our first national park has our largest herd of elk and bison; more than 200 geysers; marvelous, pristine lakes and majestic mountains; places where we can teach our children about the power and the mysteries of nature.
Yellowstone was entrusted into our care as a people, a whole people, more than 120 years ago now. And today we are saying to the rest of the world, to the rest of our country and to future generations of America, we have been worthy of that trust and we are giving it on to our children and our children's children. (Applause.)
Again, I want to thank those who were part of the Yellowstone dialogue. I want to thank Senator Baucus, who could not be here today, for his five-point plan for maximum protection of the park before the proposed mine could go forward. I want to thank the members of my Cabinet who are not here, including, especially Secretary Babbitt and Secretary Glickman and EPA Administrator Browner and Attorney General Reno, because they all supported this, as well. And I wish they could be here with us to celebrate this day. (Applause.)
The agreement that has been reached with Crown Butte to terminate this project altogether proves that everyone can agree that Yellowstone is more precious than gold. (Applause.) As has been said before, this is a victory for everyone involved -- the American people and our future win because Yellowstone will be protected from the environmental hazards of mining. Crown Butte's shareholders win because their property rights will be protected. We are all protected from years and years of expensive and bitter litigation. And while there is still work to do, and work in which members of the general public must and will be involved, we are going to move forward. And this signing today means that it will come out the way so many of you have worked for, for so many years.
Mining jobs are good jobs, and mining is important to our national economy and to our national security. But we can't have mines everywhere, and mines that could threaten any national treasures like Yellowstone -- that's too much to ask of the American people. The company has recognized this, and we thank them. (Applause.) Again, I want to emphasize they are not only walking away from a gold mine, they have also agreed to finance the clean-up of historic mining pollution that predates their work at the site. That is a very important part of this agreement, and the company deserves a lot of credit for it and we ought to appreciate what they're doing. (Applause.)
Again, I want to thank Ian Bayer and Joe Baylis of Crown Butte for their extraordinary commitment. Let me thank the members of Congress again, those who are here and Senator Baucus, who isn't; and, also, my senior Senator and a great friend of Yellowstone and the nation's environment, Senator Dale Bumpers, who very much wanted to be with us today. (Applause.)
I also want to say in closing that the way this was done should become a model for America's challenges, not only in the environment but in other areas as well.
When we deal with problems of national significance that have to be resolved by people who understand the particulars and who will be most affected by it, it will be well to remember how this was done. Yes, I did say that I wanted to preserve this park. And, yes, I did put the Vice President and Katie McGinty and the Cabinet on it. But the reason it worked, especially given the way the mining law works, as all of you know, is that we had a collaborative process that involved people reflecting all the interests involved who worked in good faith. That is the way we have to meet America's challenges as we move into this new century.
We don't have to make a choice between the environment and the economy. We don't have to have every single challenge we face drag on forever and ever and ever, into court suit after court suit after court suit, being fodder for politicians that campaign from rhetoric that divides us instead of unites us. All of you have proved that America can be better than that. This is a very, very great day for our country not only because what we have done is right, but because of the way we have done it. That is right as well.
When Yellowstone was created as the world's first national park over 120 years ago, it was as a result of a bipartisan agreement and a consensus which existed at that time that this place was too precious not to be preserved. God created the mountains of Yellowstone and the minerals beneath them, but it is up to us to preserve them. You have done that today. And you have done it in the right way.
So I ask you today as you leave here to make sure that we all teach our children and grandchildren the lessons we have learned today; to make sure that future generations of our country never forget that we have something here we can never replace, but also never forget that when we meet each other across the lines that divide us in good faith, with honest, open hearts and a real desire to move forward together, we can do it.
We celebrate that today. And as your President, I am very grateful for every single one of you who played a role in this historic moment for America. Thank you and God bless you all. (Applause.)
Now I can't forget the actual purpose for which we came. (Laughter.) Katie, Mike and Ian are going to sign the agreement. (The agreement is signed.) We're adjourned. (Applause.)